During a private meeting on Monday, Virginia Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax reportedly had some pretty harsh words for the woman who accused him of sexual assault.
According to NBC News reporter Jonathan Allen, Fairfax said “f*** that b****”:
— Jonathan Allen (@jonallendc) February 6, 2019
In an official statement released Wednesday, Fairfax struck a more conciliatory note, emphasizing “how important it is for us to listen to women when they come forward with allegations of sexual assault or harassment.”
His accuser, Vanessa Tyson, is an associate professor of politics at Scripps College in Claremont, California:
Tyson alleges that Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex on him during an encounter at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. According to a profile of Fairfax on the website of his alma mater, Columbia Law School, the future lieutenant governor was working as a so-called “body man” for vice presidential nominee John Edwards. Fairfax has denied any wrongdoing and described the encounter as consensual.
The Democratic Party of Virginia said Tuesday that Tyson’s allegations should be “taken with profound gravity.”
“We will continue to evaluate the situation regarding Lieutenant Governor Fairfax,” the party said in a statement posted to Twitter:
DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF VIRGINIA STATEMENT: "All allegations of sexual assault deserve to be taken with profound gravity. We will continue to evaluate the situation regarding Lieutenant Governor Fairfax." pic.twitter.com/ae39YSXi69
— Virginia Democrats (@vademocrats) February 5, 2019
In a separate statement, Democratic members of Virginia’s House of Delegates and Senate said: “The facts here are still being determined. Every individual deserves the opportunity to be heard, and we respect anyone who comes forward to share their story”:
On Monday, Fairfax accused the Post of “smearing” him by publishing Tyson’s claims, which he described as “totally fabricated.” In response, the Post disputed Fairfax’s claim that it had found “significant red flags” with the woman’s story.
Earlier Tuesday, Fox News confirmed that Tyson has retained the law firm of Katz, Marshall and Banks, which represented Christine Blasey Ford after she publicly accused then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her during a high school party. A source close to the legal team told Fox News that Tyson was in consultation with her legal team about what to do next and a formal statement was expected later Tuesday.
The conservative website Big League Politics first published Tyson’s claims over the weekend. Big League Politics also broke the story about Virginia Gov. Northam’s 1984 medical school yearbook photo of two men dressed in blackface and a Ku Klux Klan outfit.
In his statement Wednesday, Fairfax said that the allegation Tyson made against him “is not true” and “has been both surprising and hurtful,” but stressed, “I also recognize that no one makes charges of this kind lightly, and I take it and this situation very seriously”:
As I have stated previously, fifteen years ago, when I was an unmarried law student, I had a consensual encounter with the woman who made the allegation. At no time did she express to me any discomfort or concern about our interactions, neither during that encounter, nor during the months following it, when she stayed in touch with me, nor the past fifteen years. She in no way indicated that anything that had happened between us made her uncomfortable.
The first indication I had that she felt that anything that had happened between us fifteen years ago made her uncomfortable was when I was contacted by a national media organization shortly before my inauguration in 2018. I voluntarily met with their staff, in person, told them what I knew about the encounter and responded to all of their questions. I also shared the allegation and my account of the events with a number of leaders in Richmond because then, as now, I have nothing to hide.
Fairfax concluded his statement by indicating that he has no intention of stepping down from his post. “These are unprecedented and difficult times. We have the opportunity to prove ourselves worthy of the challenge and come together,” he wrote. “I look forward to continuing my work to unify the Commonwealth.”
Update 2:30 p.m. EST: Tyson, through her attorneys, has released a statement describing the alleged assault:
Here is the full statement of Dr. Vanessa Tyson, who is accusing VA Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of raping her in 2004. pic.twitter.com/WETUpBd5LB
— Esoteric Jeff (@EsotericCD) February 6, 2019